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Anholt's cumbersome and text-laden story centres on the early years of Mary Anning, born in 1799 and known in her native England for her discovery of ancient fossils. From the moment that her beloved father, nicknamed "Pepper" for his "speckled beard," extracts a "snakestone" (a fossil of a snake) from the clay cliffs near their seaside home, Mary spends her days searching alone for similar "curiosities," while peers taunt her with the titular nickname. Soon after her father dies, Mary discovers a dog (with a coat like "speckled pepper") near his grave. Encouraged by the Philpot sisters, local scientists, the mournful girl continues to collect fossils and searches for the giant sea monster's bones, which, legend has it, lay hidden in the cliffs. Her devoted pet leads his young mistress to the skeleton of this ichthyosaur, then vanishes. As with the death of Mary's father, the text glosses over the dog's disappearance, but readers will likely see it as a shadow cast over the discovery and marking another significant loss in young Mary's life. Moxley's (Skip Across the Ocean) vividly hued, primitivist artwork features some creatively skewed perspectives as well as several potentially disturbing images: a farmhouse teeters on the edge of eroding cliffs, while nearby are half-submerged cows and a person apparently gesturing in distress. Anholt convincingly lays the groundwork for Anning to go on to become a noted scientist and local hero, but youngsters will likely find this account of her childhood sad rather than celebratory. Ages 5-9.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Laurence Anholt is part of a husband-and-wife team who have worked together on more than 60 picture books, published all over the world in more than 17 different languages. Their picture books -- including the Chimp and Zee series -- have won numerous awards and have been featured on television and radio. Laurence has been described by William Watt as one of the most versatile authors writing for children today. He was brought up mainly in Holland where he developed a lasting passion for art. He is a much sought after public speaker, appearing at conferences such as the European Council of International Schools Conference, the Northern Children's Book Festival and the Edinburgh Festival. To visit the Anholts' website click here Sheila Moxley studied at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and graphic design at St Martin's School of Art. Skip Across the Ocean, a collection by Floella Benjamin, was her first book for Frances Lincoln. Her other books include Joy to the World by Saviour Pirotta, Heather Maisner's Diary of a Princess, Rebecca's Passover by Adele Geras and All the Colours of the Earth, a collection of rhymes edited by Wendy Cooling. She lives in Falmouth, Cornwall.
An enjoyable story. The somewhat cartoon-like illustrations - making beautiful use of rich colours that saturate the page - may appeal to slightly younger readers. PRS